Scene of Pulqueria by Agustín ArrietaMuseo Soumaya.Fundación Carlos Slim
Costumbrista paintings, taverns, and portraits are the three main genres that denote José Agustín Arrieta's work. Pervading all of them is the traditional feel of the Mexican states Tlaxcala and Puebla in the second half of the 19th century. This was a period that saw the emergence of an iconography that would come to represent Mexican national identity.
José Agustín Arrieta was born on an American continent beset with independence movements.
The liberal "Costumbrismo" style was the young artist's favorite trend in painting. This painting in the Soumaya collection depicts a social gathering taking place inside a pulque bar—one of his most cherished subjects.
In it, men and women drink a toast and enjoy themselves among barrels of "pulque" (a traditional alcoholic Mexican drink), pots full of Mexican dishes, and a basket covered with a bright white cloth.
At least one of the three men is wearing a "chinaco" costume, consisting of a suede jacket, white shirt, a sarape over his shoulder, and a sombrero in his right hand.
In the center of the canvas is a beaming woman. Her hair is down, her head crowned in flowers, and she is wearing a traditional cotton blouse that shows off her arms and and wide neckline.
Her skirt, covered in sequins, is made of a soft, red woolen material trimmed evenly at the waist. The embroidery on her underskirt peaks out flirtatiously from underneath it, as do her sateen shoes.
Arrieta's works stand out for their abundant use of color.
One of the great depicters of social behavior, he shows the patrons drunk and merry on pulque, which has them singing and dancing.
The women appear steadily resolute; one of them is covering her male companion's mouth with one hand, seemingly about to give him a slap with the other.
José Agustín Arrieta, recognized and admired by Guillermo Prieto, Mariano Riva Palacio, and Manuel Payno, among others, took a different direction to that of the Academy. He chose to depict the Mexicans on the streets and ranches—the ones who, for him, made up his Mexico: mestizo, unique, diverse, and irreverent.
Based on a text by Eva Ayala Canseco for the monthly magazine: "México en el Siglo XIX" (Mexico in the 19th Century), January 2018. Soumaya Museum, Carlos Slim Foundation.